June 12, 2010

More on Peeping Tom in Bethesda

Police looking for Peeping Tom in Bethesda

BETHESDA, Md. - Police are looking for a man who they say has been looking in windows at women in apartment buildings. Montgomery County police say there have been at least four reports of peeping tom incidents in North Bethesda since late April. In each case, the woman involved described seeing a black man in his 30s or 40s. In one case, a woman thought the peeper might have been trying to shoot video of her in her bedroom. In a separate case, a woman woke up in the wee hours of the morning to find a man standing on her Montrose Avenue apartment balcony. Police aren't sure if it was another peeping tom case, because the man's intentions weren't clear before he fled the scene.

Here are details of each incident:

5400 block of Marinelli Road: On Monday, April 26, at approximately 7:30 a.m., the female victim noticed some movement at her window and saw the suspect crouching by the corner of the window. Description: B/M, 30s, 5'9"-5'10", 200 lbs.

5800 block of Edson Lane: On Friday, May 28, at approximately 10:15 p.m., the female victim saw the suspect walking behind the apartment building and looking into windows. Description: B/M, 40s, 5'10", wearing a work shirt.

5800 block of Edson Road: On Wednesday, June 2, at approximately 9:50 p.m., the victim was undressing in her ground level apartment when she noticed a red light coming from the side of her bedroom curtains. She thought it was possibly some sort or recording device such as a video camera or cell phone. The victim looked closer and saw a black male suspect standing next to the window. A witness reported that just prior to this incident he observed an individual matching the suspect description walking behind the apartment complex. Description: B/M, 35-40, 5'11"- 6', 220-230 lbs., wearing a button-up t-shirt and dress pants.

10600 block of Montrose Avenue: On Saturday, June 5, at approximately 3:30 a.m., the female victim awoke to noises on her balcony and saw a black male suspect outside on the balcony. When the suspect knew that he had been seen, he jumped off the balcony and fled. (It is not known if this was a related peeping tom, because the suspect fled before his intent was known.)

5400 block of Marinelli Road: On Monday June 7, at approximately 7:00 a.m., the victim was dressing her children in her bedroom when she saw movements by the window. She saw the suspect looking in the window through the blinds. The victim walked out of a back door in time to see the suspect walking away towards Citadel Avenue. Description: Black male, 30s, 5'8"-6'2", 150-200 lbs., wearing a peach-colored shirt and dark tie. If you see a suspicious person or suspicious activity, Montgomery County Police want you to call them immediately at 301-279-8000. If you have more information about any of the incidents above, call the 2nd District Investigative Section at 301-657-0112. SOURCE: WTOP

June 11, 2010

Attend the Bethesda Expo on Saturday June 12 from 10-4 p.m.

Solar Bethesda Expo, Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Bethesda Green offices.  See more info below. If you could blog about this event to let your readers know it's coming up, we'd greatly appreciate it. We'll have our own blog post promoting it; for now we have this Web page, bethesdagreen.org.

Stephen Strasburg Does Letterman Top 10 List

NEW YORK - Rookie pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg is getting noticed -- by David Letterman. Strasburg's 14-strikeout major league debut for the Washington Nationals earned him a spot on Letterman's show last night. Letterman jokes that he knows baseball because his spent seven years as a scout in the Dominican Republic. Strasburg did a Top-10 list of "Little Known Facts About Stephen Strasburg." Among the highlights: Number 5, "Dumb guys think I directed 'E.T."' Number 3, "I blew my signing bonus on laser back hair removal." And Number 1, "If I would have known I'd be on Letterman, I wouldn't have pitched so well."

Renne, head of government workers' union in Montgomery, charged with assault

The head of the general government employees' union in Montgomery County faces assault charges after his wife said he pointed a revolver at her in their Frederick County home and threatened to kill her, officials said Thursday. Gino Renne, who was identified as Fiorigi Renne in law enforcement records, was charged with two counts of assault and one count of reckless endangerment, said Cpl. Jennifer Bailey, a spokeswoman for the Frederick County Sheriff's Office. On May 15, shortly after 9:30 p.m., a sheriff's deputy was called to a business near Renne's home, where his wife reported that Renne had assaulted her, Bailey said. The deputy went to their house, arrested Renne and took possession of the gun, Bailey said.

Reached by phone, Renne said the matter was moved from District Court to Circuit Court on Thursday through "mutual agreement by both parties," but he declined to discuss the specifics.

"The matter is in court. We're just going to let it go through the court system," he said. SOURCE: Washington Post

June 10, 2010

Montgomery IG presses Leggett for tuition assistance review

Montgomery County's inspector general wants more details promised by County Executive Ike Leggett's administration on a tuition assistance program that wasted hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars, according to the watchdog. Inspector General Thomas Dagley, in a letter released Tuesday, pressed top Leggett officials for a "comprehensive review" of timesheets for police officers who attended the much-maligned classes. Dagley contends public safety officials used the program to buy guns at steep discounts subsidized by taxpayers -- and did so while on the clock despite pledging otherwise.

In a random sampling, Dagley found that 50 percent of officers who took the classes did so during their official workday. Dagley wanted executive branch officials to report the findings back to the County Council and Leggett by April 30. More than a month since the requested deadline, Dagley says he hasn't seen a review.

"You reported that you would keep the OIG appraised of the progress of this review and that any payroll errors will also be addressed in coordination with the County Attorney," Dagley wrote in a letter Monday to Chief Administrative Officer Timothy Firestine. Dagley is now asking for a timesheet analysis "no later" than July 2. Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the executive branch isn't bound by Dagley's suggestion. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Sligo Creek Golf Course debate growing louder as June 30 deadline nears

In the mostly public and usually loud debate over Sligo Creek Golf Course, things have quieted down in the eight months since County Executive Isiah Leggett found $150,000 in county funds to keep the course open. But with the county council's attention shifting from a dismal budget process to upcoming elections and with the appropriation set to expire June 30, back-room discussions regarding the future of the neighborhood nine-hole course in Silver Spring are getting louder.

"We're pretty energized, and there have been people anxious about that June 30 date and chomping at the bit to picket somebody," said Woody Brosnan, who is on the board of directors for Sligo Creek Golf Association, a group of residents dedicated to keeping the course open. "But it's kind of difficult to know [what the issues are] with this murky legal situation that isn't being explained to you and we aren't a part of."

As of Monday, the June 30 date appears not to be an issue. Keith Miller, executive director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, the operator of the course, told The Gazette Monday that his agency and the Montgomery County Department of Parks, the landowner, had reached an interim agreement to keep the course open through November. That announcement came about a week after Brosnan and other members of the Sligo Creek Golf Association met with Leggett (D), who assured them the course would remain open beyond June 30, the expiration date for the $150,000 appropriation that Leggett proposed and the Montgomery County Council approved last fall.

With rounds up at all nine Revenue Authority-operated golf courses this year, Sligo Creek, a nine-hole course, will have enough revenue to make it through the end of the season, Miller said. But what happens in November is still uncertain. The Revenue Authority and the Montgomery County Department of Parks, which owns the land, are working on a long-term operating agreement for the next one to two years, Miller said. The deal would allow the Revenue Authority to operate the course much in the same way it does now, paying for maintenance and daily operations but not capital improvements, said Mary Bradford, the parks department's director.

"It's in our best interest to continue the current operating agreement, because we don't have the money to maintain that as a park," Bradford said.

Of a timetable for a finalized long-term agreement, Miller said "we were hoping to have it done already." The Revenue Authority, a for-profit agency, must gain approval from its bank, M&T Bank, before entering an agreement to operate the course, Miller said. The deal has stalled over a complicated legal and financial conflict that amounts to M&T Bank needing assurance that if the Revenue Authority takes on Sligo Creek any longer, the Revenue Authority can still pay off a $25 million bond taken on in 2006 when it originally leased four Parks-owned golf courses to join the five it already owned and operated, Miller said.

Councilwoman Valerie Ervin speculated the county's somewhat perilous AAA bond rating from bond-rating agency Moody's, which put the county on its "watch list" in April, may have given M&T trepidation.

As a result, a report by the Sligo Creek Golf Course Task Force, a group of county officials and residents charged with determining a financially self-sustaining model for the Silver Spring course that met weekly for three months, has been gathering dust since it was submitted to the county council in January. The report recommends that operation of the course be put out to bid to private operators through a request-for-proposal process. That way the operator would pay for capital improvements at Sligo Creek that other agencies have been unwilling to fund and which could reach up to $2 million, the task force report says.

Council President Nancy Floreen has the power to call the report for a council work session and eventual vote but has not yet done so. "We've been waiting for some information from the Revenue Authority, which has been delayed and delayed. And we expect it to be coming pretty soon," said Floreen (D-At-large) of Garrett Park.

With elections looming this fall, Ervin said it's possible that the political nature of the course could contribute to the task force report not being reviewed. Residents have loudly opposed the closing of the course, originally scheduled for Oct. 1, 2009, before Leggett's appropriation, and much of the Revenue Authority's methods in operating the course, including a 2007 attempt to spend $5 million on a driving range and miniature golf course at Sligo Creek.

But to open the course to private operators, some council members would go against the lease they approved in 2006, stating it was in the county's best interest to have just one public golf course operator, Ervin said. In approving Leggett's $150,000 appropriation proposal, the council has already back-tracked on its position to not use taxpayer dollars to pay for golf.

"Many people believe that if it's put on the agenda before the election, they will be put in a position to make a decision on this," said Ervin (D-Dist. 5) of Silver Spring. Floreen, along with Councilmen George L. Leventhal, Phillip M. Andrews and Michael J. Knapp, were members of that council.

"Most of the council would rather find a way to keep the course open in the interim and decide after a new council is seated," Ervin said. "Just like the old council made the decision for us, we don't want to make a decision for the council that isn't here yet."

That original lease also took a hit from Annapolis this year, when Del. Benjamin F. Kramer (D-Dist. 19) of Rockville passed a bill in the General Assembly that would prohibit the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission from entering into any lease that allows a third party to close a facility on M-NCPPC-owned land and prevent it from competing with other M-NCPPC facilities. The bill was backed by an opinion from by Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler.

As politics, financial conflict and negotiations swirl around the course, from the first tee to the ninth green all is well, Brosnan said. While usage statistics are not yet available this year, the course has at least received more attention in the aftermath of its near closure, Brosnan said. About 40 employees of the Food and Drug Administration have initiated a weekly league. A $1,500 donation from the Sligo Creek Golf Association brought the First Tee of Montgomery County, an instructional program for low-income youth and beginners to the sport, back to Sligo Creek after it had left the course. The Revenue Authority has organized volunteer days to help maintain the course. And the newly formed Sligo Creek Golf Club will organize future volunteer days and fundraisers. SOURCE: Gazette

Melting cup of the world

According to USA Today, American fans have purchased the highest number of World Cup tickets compared to any other country except for the host nation South Africa. American fans have purchased about 120,000 tickets, beating out the more uniformly enthusiastic football fanatics of England, France and Germany. As a citizen of a country in the midst of baseball season, pro-basketball games and ice hockey playoffs, this came to me as a surprise. But as it turns out, South Africa is attracting Americans who are faithful to other national teams in addition to the U.S. As the World Cup warms up, the diverse set of team loyalties blends to create a fan base that's radically different from homogeneous fans of the reputed obsessive soccer nations.

The been greater enthusiasm for soccer across the nation in recent years is but a minor contributor to America's World Cup frenzy. More and more kids have played soccer in past decades than before and now are old enough to be raising a second generation of mini, cleat-donning footballers. Still, that doesn't really tells us who is buying the tickets to watch the world's most popular sports tournament. The most likely explanation is the increasingly diverse body of American fans - new Americans with strong soccer roots in their "home" countries who will root for other teams such as Mexico, Argentina, Cameroon, Ghana or South Korea, in addition to the U.S.

Personally, I am a soccer fan who has always been disappointed by the way Americans disregard soccer for football, baseball and basketball, as well as by the low performance of American men's team. But after learning that the U.S. surpassed foreign soccer-crazed countries in ticket sales, I began to consider the possibility that the way Americans root for teams, by rooting for other countries, is a positive reflection of the diversity of the country. This phenomenon is reflected in the current U.S. World Cup team; most players on the team were born or have soccer-crazed nations on several different continents.

Like most Blazers, I appreciate the daily diversity of our school environment. It therefore brings a smile to my face that a Blair-esque world of Americans with roots in many nations and continents is finally making the U.S. a global soccer power. This is not happening through more effective marketing of the game to NFL or Nascar fans; instead, this is occurring by the simple and wonderful process of new Americans becoming prosperous and bringing their taste and loyalties in soccer to the country. As a long time lover and player of the sport, it is nice to know that fans' loyalties are as diverse as the country itself as we approach this year's World Cup. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Amy Polk remembered for her birth-center work

Takoma Park resident Amy Polk is remembered by her loved ones as a devoted wife, dedicated mother of two and talented transportation engineer. She was also — up until her death April 29 when she was struck and killed by a vehicle in Washington, D.C. — an outspoken advocate for a Takoma Park-based birthing center. It is around Polk's lasting vision for the center that her friends and family have rallied in the previous weeks of sadness. They have drawn strength from her commitment to see the proposed Seasons of Life Women's Health and Birth Center built on the site of the Washington Adventist Hospital, which will vacate a considerable amount of space if it is granted its request to relocate to the White Oak/Calverton area by 2013.

While the fate of the hospital remains uncertain and the board of the Birthing Options Alliance group—which Polk had chaired up until her death—struggles to cope with the loss of its leader, Polk's friends and fellow advocates held a spirited meeting Saturday paying homage to Polk and promoting the center.

"We all feel a real vacancy in her absence, but we're more determined now than ever to move forward with her vision," said Birthing Options Alliance board member Marsha Stalcup at the gathering, which took place in the home of Takoma, D.C., resident Angela Lauria, another birth-center advocate.

John Robinette, Polk's husband, was in attendance Saturday to offer his support for Polk's vision. He described his late wife, who was 42 years old, as a compassionate and intensely motivated woman who pursued her goals with confidence.

"She was very high-energy; when she knew what she wanted, she just went and did it; ... when she set her mind to something, it was just going to happen," he said, adding that Polk's enthusiasm for a birthing center came from her experiences with a similar center in Bethesda that has since closed.

"We had two fantastic birth experiences at the Maternity Center in Bethesda, and then it shut down," he said. "To have that option go away didn't seem right, so she set out to fix that problem. ... In some ways, it feels like Amy died in childbirth with this infant child in [the form of] the birth center."

Both of Robinette's and Polk's two sons, Adam, 7, and Brian, 4, were born at the Bethesda maternity center before it closed due to a lack of funding in 2007. Birthing centers offer less-invasive pain medication options to pregnant women along with an emphasis on the intimacy of the experience and the comfort of expectant mothers, according to Lauria. SOURCE: Gazette

NO LONG LINES: Seniors receive diplomas early

For most high school students, four years of hard work and stress lead up to one moment: graduation. But five seniors on the debate won’t join the rest of their class for the ceremony. Instead, they received diplomas at a special graduation June 7, because the National Forensic League speech and debate tournament occurs during the main graduation June 14. Seniors Perry Green, Sarah Houston, Jane Kessner, Caroline Sherrard and Rachel Umans received their diplomas. All five addressed the small crowd of friends and family, followed by a speech from speech and debate coach Anjan Choudhury.

“It’s that initial conviction you have that will create that ripple out in the world,” Choudhury said. “It’s conviction that makes people listen, that makes change happen. This group of graduating seniors will effect change in the world.”

Debate sponsor Colin O’Brien suggested the separate graduation to principal Alan Goodwin after some parents of debate students were trying to figure out how these seniors could compete and graduate as scheduled. O’Brien and Goodwin decided to host a smaller event in the courtyard because without the special ceremony, these debaters would’ve had to choose between attending either the NFL tournament or graduation. SOURCE: Black and White

PICTURE: Seniors Sarah Houston, Caroline Sherrard and Jane Kessner walked across the courtyard during the special graduation ceremony. Photo by Alexander Burnett.

EDITORIAL: Montgomery's unchartered waters

MONTGOMERY COUNTY Schools Superintendent Jerry D. Weast is recommending that two applications for public charter schools be rejected. Little surprise there, considering the approval process for starting up these alternative public schools is a little like letting McDonald's decide if Burger King can move in next door. It's yet more evidence that Maryland needs to change its antiquated charter law.

Mr. Weast's recommendation to deny bids by the nonprofit Crossway Community Inc. and Global Garden Charter School is likely to be followed by the county Board of Education when it votes Tuesday. In a memo to the board, Mr. Weast outlined how a panel of education stakeholders reviewed the applications. Significant concerns were raised with Global Garden's proposed academic design and whether school leaders grasped how to operate a school. Crossway, which has successfully operated social-service and children's programs for 20 years, seemed to pose a tougher decision, but the panel concluded that concerns with funding, operational issues and staffing precluded approval. Such concerns can't be discounted, and it is in no one's interest to start up charter schools that are destined to fail.

Nonetheless, we have to wonder just how impartial this process is. How else to interpret the panel's apparent umbrage over Global Garden's suggestion that the traditional public school system does not "cultivate each child's natural curiosity through a vigorous curriculum that emphasizes inquiry, discovery, and authenticity." Montgomery County has an excellent school system, but it is by no means perfect. Surely, there are some children who would benefit from a different learning environment, such as the year-round calendar and extended school-day proposed by Global Garden or the Montessori model with "wraparound" services such as health care advanced by Crossway. Parents should have choices, and education as a whole benefits from healthy competition.

A spokesman for Mr. Weast stressed that the superintendent is not anti-charter and tried several years ago to get the noted Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) network to start a school in Montgomery. The proof, though, is in the pudding: There are no charter schools in Montgomery today, and the last serious effort to start one occurred a decade ago. Statewide, there are only 36 public charter schools, mostly in Baltimore City. That dismal record is the result of a bad state law that puts all the power over whether there should be school choice in the hands of local school officials. SOURCE: Washington Post

Weast makes curriculum marketing deal

ROCKVILLE, Md. - Has a local county school system come up with a brilliant marketing strategy in order to bridge a budget gap or is your child's education for sale? Montgomery County's Board of Education has approved a contract that has the school system teaming up with Pearson Higher Education, a leading publisher of education materials.

Montgomery County will have some of Pearson's experts help district writers revamp the elementary education curriculum. In return, Pearson will market the curriculum with the Montgomery County Public Schools' name attached. In return for the use of its name, MCPS gets 2.5 percent of the material sales.

Brian Edwards, Chief of Staff with MCPS says the arrangement is the first of its kind. Edwards stopped short of saying it was the selling of education, saying the deal is a form of marketing.

"I think all school systems have a brand," Edwards says. "I think if you say 'Montgomery County Schools' anywhere in the country, we're known for high quality."

Edwards flatly denied that taxpayer money is being used to help Pearson make a buck.

"Pearson's going to be investing to provide additional positions for Montgomery County Public Schools," he says.

Edwards says consideration was given to the program due to the budget problems facing the county.

"Every school system's budget is extremely squeezed right now," he says. "We're facing cuts, we're facing reductions in force. We all have to look and think differently about what we have to do to help our kids achieve."

If the arrangement works, look for more of the same to pop up across the state. Several Maryland counties face a very tough fiscal year in 2012, with the Maryland General Assembly looking to have counties help pick up teacher pensions, which are currently a state expense. SOURCE: WTOP

June 9, 2010

Ehrlich highlights call for more Md. charter schools

Former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) on Wednesday visited a Baltimore public charter school with an international emphasis, seeking to refocus attention on a policy priority highlighted during the announcement of his comeback campaign two months ago.

"I love charter schools," Ehrlich told students at the Baltimore International Academy. "That's why I'm here -- to highlight what you're doing at this school."

Maryland joined the charter school movement at Ehrlich's behest during his term as governor, which ended following his 2006 defeat by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). In April, as Ehrlich announced his bid to get his job back, he called for doubling the number of charter schools in Maryland, which has grown to 42 under O'Malley. Most of Maryland's charter schools are located in Baltimore. The Baltimore International Academy is an international language immersion school, and Ehrlich was greeted as he arrived by four students speaking the languages in which they are taught starting in kindergarten: Spanish, French, Chinese and Russian.

As he dropped in classrooms, Ehrlich seemed taken aback as he watched kindergarten students taught in Chinese and was treated to a song in Russian by another small class. "Finally, something I can understand," he joked when arriving in a Spanish-language class. Besides expanding the number of public charter schools, Ehrlich said he will also propose changing the process by which they are approved. Under the current system, local school officials decide whether to allow new ones.

The Washington Post editorial board has been among the critics of that process. A recent editorial said it was akin to "letting McDonald's decide if Burger King can move in next door."

In an interview following a later address to a Harford County business group focused on education, Ehrlich said the reform of charter schools will be just one component of education plans he will outline in coming weeks. SOURCE: Washington Post

Montgomery's lawsuit against officer dismissed

A gun-owning judge threw out Montgomery County's lawsuit today that sought to reclaim money spent on a police training program that offered deeply discounted weapons to police officers. Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Terrance J. McGann said in his decision county employees were to blame for a lack of oversight of the program. He also noted during the hearing that his sons bought him a gun for his 60th birthday.

"If the county feels they got duped or feel embarrassed or they shouldn't have to pay, well, that's their fault," McGann said.

In the lawsuit, filed by the county March 3, attorneys claimed Aaron Kenneth Bailey "defrauded" the county out of about $400,000 by using taxpayer money to offer discounted guns to officers. Bailey, of Bethesda, operated the Applied Sciences for Public Safety LLC courses. County officers used the county's tuition assistance fund to pay for the courses, but a portion of the tuition went to purchase guns offered to participants at deep discounts.

The county sued Bailey and Applied Sciences for $400,000 to recoup the tuition assistance funding and for $500,000 in punitive damages. McGann ruled Wednesday in favor of a motion by Bailey and Applied Sciences to dismiss the case.

Christopher A. Hinrichs, assistant county attorney, said the county respected the court's decision, but would be reviewing its options. The county's tuition assistance program, which offered money to employees to attend training courses, was shut down last year after questions were raised over the discounted guns.

From fiscal 2007 through Sept. 4, 2009, the county spent about $2.4 million on 3,467 training courses for about 1,465 employees, according to a report from the county's inspector general.

The program is not funded in fiscal 2011. The company was allowed to offer perks to law enforcement officers who participated in the training courses, said Charles S. Rand, a Rockville attorney representing Bailey and Life Sciences. He said the company could have offered lunches or other prizes to attract business and was not obligated to tell the county how it spent its profits.

"They don't like the souvenirs," Rand said of the county. "It's a gun, and a gun in Montgomery County is verboten."

"What if it were a lobster tail?" asked Judge McGann.

"Well, then I don't think we'd be here," Rand replied.

Glock firearms, which typically retail at $600, were sold to deputies for about $100. McGann said officials could have done more to look into the program before authorizing county money for the courses, but the company and Bailey were not obligated to tell the county how the money was being spent.

"It's their tuition money that they got, and they could use it any way they wanted," McGann said. "They didn't tell the county that no extra dollars are going to any entertainment costs." SOURCE: Gazette

As Montgomery Schools pass $2.1 billion budget, Weast cries "broke"

The Montgomery County school board Tuesday approved a $2.1 billion fiscal 2011 spending plan for the school system that eliminates several teaching positions, increases class sizes and scales back on the purchase of new textbooks, among other cost-saving measures.

"I am concerned about what next year will bring," Superintendent Jerry D. Weast told the board during its all-day meeting in Rockville. "I wish I could say this is the end of our fiscal difficulty, but I'm afraid I can't foretell."

With the 6-1 vote, the board also agreed with a school system recommendation to cut $6.5 million from the central office. When funding gets tight for the school system, county parents and activists typically press school administrators to eliminate positions in the central office rather than in the classrooms. School board member Laura V. Berthiaume voted against the fiscal 2011 budget because of what she said was a lack of input on the spending plan.

"I do not believe that a single board member has affected this budget. I know I haven't," said Berthiaume (Dist. 2) of Rockville. "Why are we here? Are we merely window dressing?"

Not so, said school board Vice President Christopher S. Barclay (Dist. 4) of Takoma Park.

"I've got purpose," he said. "I'm very clear that we give guidance to this budget."

School board President Patricia B. O'Neill (Dist. 3) of Bethesda said she and then-President Shirley Brandman (At-large) of Bethesda began discussing the fiscal 2011 budget with school system officials in September, so board members had input on the spending plan. For fiscal 2011, which begins July 1, the board agreed with a school system recommendation to eliminate the Office of Organizational Development, which sought to train schools' employees. Eliminating that office is expected to save the school system $1.2 million.

This year, with the county and the nation in the midst of a recession, school leaders have said there was no way to shield students from budget cuts. For example, the spending plan eliminates 24 academic intervention teaching positions, at a savings of $1.5 million. Those teachers work directly with struggling students who are economically disadvantaged.

Reducing the number of academic intervention teachers could affect the school system's ability to reduce the achievement gap between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian American peers. The approved budget also adds one student to each class, at a cost savings of $16.2 million. The increased class size will put further constraints on teachers' time and limit their availability to give one-on-one assistance to students, according to the school system's budget recommendation.

Also next school year, students will have to read from older textbooks and workbooks. The school system will not be buying new textbooks, at a cost savings of $9.4 million. STORY SOURCE: Gazette

VIDEO SOURCE: Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County

Where is the White Flint Financing?

It’s been eleven months since the Planning Board proposed a financing mechanism for White Flint. It’s been nine months since the Montgomery County Council first began public hearings on the White Flint Sector Plan, including the financing plan to support the new infrastructure. It’s been six months since the County Executive first began proposing financing options for White Flint. It’s been five months since the Council Committees began considering the County Executive’s financing proposals. It’s been three months since the Council unanimously approved the White Flint Sector Plan. It’s been two months since the County Executive became so bogged down in budget negotiations that even the prospect of $7 BILLION from White Flint redevelopment couldn’t shake the financing plan loose. It’s been a month since the County Council made some very hard decisions on the budget. Which of these is the right measure of how long we’ve waited for a financing plan?

Barnaby Zall. SOURCE: Friends of White Flint

June 8, 2010

Jeanne Announces Candidacy for Delegate District 16

Bethesda, Maryland (June 8, 2010) With a vision for revitalizing Maryland’s economy, environment, and education system, Jeanne Allen today announced her candidacy for the Maryland House of Delegates, District 16. Allen brings significant personal and professional experience to the race, as she seeks to represent the citizens of District 16, which spans through and beyond Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Garrett Park, Kensington, Potomac, Somerset. She filed candidacy papers in person today in Annapolis.

“I am fortunate to be able to run for delegate at such a critical time in our nation’s history. With millions of people desperate for the prosperity this great nation can provide, it’s time we adopt policies and programs to restore economic vitality to our county and our state,” Allen said.

Jeanne’s platform for community renewal focuses on the economy and getting rid of the punitive business practices that have forced jobs and residents out of the state; on education, and creating more and better educational opportunities that give our students an internationally competitive advantage and promising future; on the environment, including renewed efforts to restore the health and productivity of the Bay and positive, clean energy alternatives, and on efficiency in government, including more effective and friendly services.

Jeanne is nationally recognized as the founder and president of The Center for Education Reform, a national research and advocacy organization that has worked with hundreds of state and local officials throughout the country to improve education and has trained millions of parents who have turned to Allen’s organization for support, guidance and leadership to secure better schools for their children. She is also a small business owner, managing TAC Public Affairs Strategies, a communications agency.

“I have been fortunate to work with state legislators here and across the country and know what makes the difference between principled policymaking and political pandering. Maryland needs more lawmakers who put the people and their individual, complementary needs above special interests,” Jeanne said upon filing her papers in Annapolis today.

Allen is a 26-year resident of the 16th District. She resides in Bethesda, with her four children (John, Teddy, Anthony, and Mary Monica) and her husband, Dr. Kevin Strother, an educator. She is running for delegate as a Republican. SOURCE: Candidate website

The ongoing evolution of the pill

As 2010 marks the Birth Control pillís fiftieth anniversary, it is clear that its use, purpose and even form, have all greatly evolved as a benefactor in the lives of countless women. This anniversary calls for use to celebrate the benefits women, have gained from taking the Pill historically, as well as what capabilities doctors have in developing future modules of the pill. Originating as the ìCombined Oral Contraceptiveî and approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 1960 for contraceptive use, the pill has transformed greatly in its fifty-year existence. Although women who took the early form of the pill experienced dangerous side effects, on the whole the Pill afforded women greater autonomy over their own bodies.

Immediately after its introduction, the pill gave women unprecedented power and freedom. Unlike ever before, they would not need to experience unwanted pregnancies. Furthermore, because abortions were not made legal until 1973, fewer unwanted pregnancies meant ìback streetî abortions would become less of a problem. The usability of the pill has also greatly developed. Initially, a woman needed to take the pill at a specific time each day, every single day. But since, the pill has grown more flexible for women: some modifications of the pill do not need to be taken every day. Other forms of the pill donít even come in pill shape any more but instead are patches that woman place on their skin.

Whether one supports its use or not, the pill is one of the most popular forms of birth control used among sexually active women today. And it now not only has a variety of forms, but a variety of purposes: women take some form of birth control to shorten or lighten their periods or to relieve pain or cramping associated with menstruation. Sometimes the pill can even clear up acne!

Although new developments to the pill have mostly provided women with benefits, in several ways they have also generated negative feelings among women about menstruating. Today, not only can the pill help prevent unwanted pregnancies but it can also prevent unwanted periods. Seemingly the new ìbenefitsî of taking the pill denaturalize a womanís menstrual cycle and can actually disrupt a womanís natural rhythm; a concept about which many are uncomfortable. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Bob Schieffer to replace helen Thomas as Walt Whitman speaker

Walt Whitman High School has chosen veteran CBS journalist Bob Schieffer to replace Helen Thomas as its commencement speaker next week after the longtime White House correspondent-columnist bowed out of the engagement amid controversy over inflammatory comments she made about Israel and Palestine. Alan Goodwin, principal of the Bethesda school, described Schieffer on Tuesday as a "journalist of prominent stature in the community" and said he planned to inform parents of the choice through an e-mail.

Thomas, 89, announced her retirement Monday from a columnist position with Hearst Newspapers following a storm of criticism over her assertion that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to Germany, Poland and the United States. The remarks were recorded by a rabbi on video.

Thomas had agreed Sunday not to speak at the June 14 graduation at Constitution Hall. She also apologized for the remarks. Goodwin said he received a flood of offers from people willing to speak or help him find a replacement speaker. The flap put a spotlight on how commencement speakers are chosen. Essentially, the principal makes the call in consultation with the school community. Speakers at other Montgomery County graduations this spring include County Executive Isiah Leggett, sportscaster Frank Herzog, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and newscaster Leon Harris. SOURCE: Washington Post

WWII bi-plan overturned by wind at Reagan National Airport

Shot by Dan Webb

Knapp will not run for re-election in District 2

ROCKVILLE, Md., June 8, 2010—Montgomery County Councilmember Mike Knapp (D-District 2) today announced he will not seek re-election to the Montgomery County Council. Councilmember Knapp, a resident of Germantown, has held the District 2 seat, which serves the Upcounty region, for two terms.

“Over the past eight years, I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting and getting to know residents across the Upcounty region. With our beautiful farms and cutting edge industries, the Upcounty is one of the most diverse and productive communities in the state, and I’m pleased to not only represent this unique region, but also to call it home,” Councilmember Knapp said. “I appreciate your continued faith in me as I complete my term in office. I hope I’ll continue to merit your confidence and your willingness to work together to address our community's issues.”

Knapp, a biotechnology consultant and former business development executive at Celera—renowned for its groundbreaking research in mapping the human genome—will be working with the Washington Region's leading biotechnology firms, academic and research institutions and the financial sector to develop and implement strategies to increase life science activities in our community.

“We have unparalleled life science assets, but as global competition has increased, our efforts have not kept pace,” Councilmember Knapp said. “As the economy begins to recover, now is the time for us to proactively establish a strategy to overhaul K-12 science and technology curriculum, improve technology workforce development, increase academic research efforts and collaboration, and increase investment in emerging technologies and companies.

“We can and should lead the nation in the commercialization of research to transform how we improve human health. I am very excited to help lead the efforts in our community to make this goal a reality.”

First elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, Councilmember Knapp presently serves as the chair of the Council’s Planning, Housing and Economic Development Committee and as a member of the Education Committee. While Knapp primarily focused his efforts on government accountability and fiscal responsibility, he is even prouder of helping accommodate the day-to-day needs of the Upcounty.

“Some of my proudest accomplishments are those that tend to get the least attention,” Knapp said. “Whether it’s new stoplights in Montgomery Village or near the Damascus Recreation Center, connecting fragments of sidewalks in Germantown, getting fire stations in Germantown and Clarksburg or ensuring that facilities like the Olney Skate Park or Germantown Library finally got built, these are the things that directly impact the daily lives of residents. I’m pretty proud of that.”

Knapp was chief sponsor of the legislation to reform the fire and rescue service, worked to reduce the county's homeless population, increased access to technology education and led the efforts to pass three groundbreaking master plans for Germantown, White Flint and the Great Seneca Science Corridor. As the representative of the district containing the majority of the County’s 93,000 acres of the Agricultural Reserve, Knapp worked to ensure that farming remains a viable part of the county’s overall economy.

Previously, Councilmember Knapp chaired the Council’s Education Committee, served as a member of the Public Safety Committee and chaired the Homeland Security Committee. Knapp served as the Council president in 2008 and as its vice president in 2007. Since 2002, Knapp has served on the Board of Directors of the Washington Metropolitan Council of Governments, including one term as its chair. He has also served as the County's representative on the Maryland Association of Counties Legislative Committee.

Kensington in the news

It seems that Kensington keeps popping up in the news recently. First, the saga of Noyes Library, the only library in Montgomery County dedicated to young children. The library was facing closure due to budget cuts, but as the Gazette reports, the library might be getting a reprieve thanks to the private Noyes Children’s Library Foundation. Have any of you visited the library? Better than the childrens section at the Wheaton library? The Gazette is also reporting on the Kensington mayoral race, in which the current mayor and his partner are both running. . Seats on the town council are also up for grabs. Elections are this Monday at the town hall. Any Kensington residents want to weigh in on the election? Finally, today’s Washington Post showcases the town of Kensington in its feature. SOURCE: What's Up Wheaton

Montgomery County still faces $200 million budget shortfall

Montgomery officials routinely labeled recent budget concessions the most "painful," "far-reaching," and "dire" the county had ever seen, but with federal stimulus money slated to expire and a looming teacher pension crisis, council members may need to recycle those terms.

"It's not over yet," County Council President Nancy Floreen told The Washington Examiner. "In fact, it could get more difficult."

County Executive Ike Leggett is alreadypredicting a nearly $200 million shortfall for fiscal 2012, but that estimate could skyrocket. The just-tackled shortfall ballooned from $600 million to nearly $1 billion in months. The uphill road back to black is becoming a trend for Maryland's richest county, which has struggled to pay for services fueled by booming income-tax revenue now long gone. Hoping to reverse the trend, county officials will examine budget plans for the next five years in coming weeks. They are looking to avoid the last-minute negotiationsneeded to balance the budget this year.

But some are predicting similar fallout.

"I think we're going to be in the same situation next year," said Councilman Mike Knapp, D-Germantown. "The best strategy this year was to reduce well below what [Leggett] proposed. We didn't do that."

He pointed to lawsuit threats from the schools system over "relatively small" financial sacrifices, predicting more of the same if the council seeks the cuts necessary for economic stability. And it would likely mean more furlough days for a county workforce frustrated by forced unpaid vacations. Another battle brewing between the council and schools is over teacher pensions -- some Maryland officials have suggested shifting the burden for teacher pension payments to the counties.

SOURCE: Washington Examiner

June 7, 2010

Comments that cancelled Helen Thomas speech at Walt Whitman

Frederick County woman attacks Montgomery County pregnant woman

Walt Whitman High School drops Helen Thomas as commencement speaker

Veteran journalist Helen Thomas, who recently made controversial comments about Israel and Palestine, agreed Sunday not to appear as commencement speaker at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda. lan Goodwin, principal of Whitman, where objections to the appearance had been raised, said he reached a niece of Thomas's earlier in the day. "We had a mutual understanding about her not coming," he said.

"Graduation celebrations are not the venue for divisiveness," Goodwin said in an e-mail to Whitman parents. "Graduation is the time for a cohesive and joyous celebration of our students' achievements," he wrote.

Thomas, 89, who has covered the White House for decades, provoked criticism by her response in an impromptu video interview that was posted online. In a brief comment, she said Israelis should "get the hell" out of Palestine and go to places including Poland, Germany and the United States.

In an interview, Whitman parent Raisa Slepoy said, "I don't know why anybody would ask a person like that to speak at a commencement ceremony . . . especially where there's a pretty large Jewish population."

If Thomas had appeared, Slepoy said, there would "be a lot of people booing her off the stage. . . . It would be an embarrassment."

The remarks have "already stirred up the community quite a bit," Slepoy said, bringing up "bad feelings." Germany, she said, is not a Jewish homeland.

Reportedly, a campaign against Thomas's appearance, which had been scheduled for weeks, was waged on Facebook.

Goodwin said he had received e-mails from Whitman parents and students, some merely calling attention to the statements, others suggesting that perhaps he should reconsider the invitation. Thomas has apologized, calling the remarks a mistake.

Goodwin said he and Thomas's niece talked about having her meet with students next year in a different forum. Neither Thomas nor her niece could be reached late Sunday.

The commencement is to be June 14 at Constitution Hall.

SOURCE: Washington Post

Montgomery County drops behind Fairfax County

Potomac U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probe

Federal officials have arrested an Army intelligence analyst who boasted of giving classified U.S. combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site Wikileaks, Wired.com has learned. SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged. Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians. He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.” “Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote. Wired.com could not confirm whether Wikileaks received the supposed 260,000 classified embassy dispatches. To date, a single classified diplomatic cable has appeared on the site: released last February, it describes a U.S. embassy meeting with the government of Iceland. E-mail and a voice mail message left for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Sunday were not answered by the time this article was published. The State Department said it was not aware of the arrest or the allegedly leaked cables. The FBI was not prepared to comment when asked about Manning. Army spokesman Gary Tallman was unaware of the investigation but said, “If you have a security clearance and wittingly or unwittingly provide classified info to anyone who doesn’t have security clearance or a need to know, you have violated security regulations and potentially the law.” SOURCE: Wired.com